April 16, 2020, by Kate Rothery

Stretch at your desk – 8 simple exercises

Many of us are studying and working from home a lot more than we’re used to and may find ourselves slipping into bad habits when we’ve got a busy workload to get through.

Poor posture and sitting still for long periods can leave your muscles and particularly your back, neck and shoulders feeling tight and achy.

However studies have shown that even taking a short break can boost productivity. So next time you hit the afternoon lull, resist reaching for another coffee and instead incorporate some quick stretches from your desk.

As part of our blog series for the new online Health and Wellbeing Home, fitness instructors John and Cam have put together eight simple stretches you can complete without even leaving your workspace.

You can work through all of the stretches below or just pick one or two to target any particularly tight areas. John and Cam have also put together a video demonstration to help you!


Cat and Cow

Targets: Back, chest

While this stretch is typically done on all fours, you don’t have to be on the ground to lengthen and contract your muscles. Perform a modified version of the same gentle, spine-stretching sequence from your desk to help ease your body back into proper posture.


  1. Sit on the edge of your chair so that your back isn’t resting or being propped up by the back of the chair.
  2. With your hands resting on your knees, inhale and hinge slightly forward allowing a small arch in your lower back. This is cow pose.
  3. On your exhale, round your spine and tuck your chin into your chest. This is cat pose.
  4. Flow between those two poses, pressing your chest out and arching your back dramatically for the “cat” pose, and then breathing out and pulling your belly button in towards your spine as you arch your back into “cow”.

Look over the shoulder

Targets: Obliques

You don’t have to be off the clock to make time to work your core. Squeeze in a seated oblique twist with this movement that engages your core while challenging your stabilizer muscles.


  1. Sit tall in your chair as you gently rotate your trunk and shoulders to one side. Grasp the outside of the corresponding leg to lean deeper into the pose.
  2. Hold, then repeat in the opposite direction. Each time, turn until you feel a slight stretch in your trunk.

Chest Stretch

Targets: Pectoral muscles

Open up your chest with this chair stretch that also works your arm muscles.


  1. Sit on the edge of your chair with your feet hip-distance apart and firmly planted on the ground.
  2. Reach your hands back to grasp the back of your chair, palms facing towards you.
  3. With a straight back, draw your belly button in towards your spine. Press your chest forward and keep your gaze straight ahead.
  4. Hold this stretch for 30-60 seconds.

Shoulder Stretch

Targets: Deltoids (anterior, middle, and posterior)

This stretch keeps tension at bay by rolling your shoulders and allowing you to mindfully relax your upper body.


  1. Sit up straight with your hands on your thighs.
  2. Roll your shoulders toward the front and then up to your ears, drawing them back and down while squeezing your shoulder blades together.
  3. Repeat for 10 repetitions before reversing direction.

Neck Rotations

Targets: Neck, trapezius

You don’t have to hit a yoga ‘ragdoll’ pose to experience the release that comes with letting your head weigh down and your neck roll. Help relieve neck and shoulder pain with this desk-friendly modification.


  1. Sit up straight with your hands resting on your thighs.
  2. Rotate your head to one side roughly 90 degrees, slowly return to centre and change side. Lift the head slightly each time and repeat.
  3. Repeat 2 times every time you lift your head slightly.

Seated Glute Stretch

Targets: Glutes

Your glutes will become tight after prolonged sitting so it’s important to make time to release them regularly.


1. Sitting up tall, bring one foot on top of the opposite knee and push down gently.
2. Hold for 15-30 seconds, slowly release and change sides.
3. To increase the stretch, lean the chest forward whilst keeping a nice tall posture.

Knees to Chest Stretch

Targets: Lumbar spine.

This is a soothing counter pose to back bends and twists. This pose helps to keep the lower back lumbar and releases stress in the abdominals.


  1. Sitting on the edge if your chair lean slightly back and bring knees towards you.
  2. Aim to get your knees towards your chest but don’t force it, otherwise the abdominals cramp.
  3. Tuck chin slightly, inhale and exhale for around 3 seconds each.

Psoas March

Targets: Lower back pain and hip flexors.

This is a crucial movement to help relieve tight hip flexors after prolonged sitting and build a stable core.


  1. Sitting on the edge of your chair, bring your hands behind your head and position your legs at a 90 degree angle.
  2. Keeping the core tight and back straight, lift one foot off the floor bringing your knees up towards you.
  3. Slowly alternate between each foot in a marching motion for roughly 60 seconds.


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